NEPD Staff Writer: Tony Santorsa
With the 21st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse. The Patriots traded up to draft Jones, as they gave up their third round pick as well as their 27th overall pick to acquire the 21st overall pick from the Cincinnati Bengals.
My first reactions about this selection were certainly shaky—I wasn’t completely sold on Jones. I believed that Jones left school too soon and should have remained at Syracuse one more season. Don’t get me wrong, I believed that Jones had talent and potential, but his talent was raw.
Jones progressed fairly well throughout training camp and the preseason as he earned himself a starting job at right defensive end—and emerged as New England’s most dangerous pass-rusher.
Jones certainly had major impacts in the earlier part of the season, as he strip-sacked Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the first game of the season and then went to record four sacks in the next five games.
From that point on, Jones somewhat hit a wall as well as dealing with an injured ankle.
Seeing a rookie hit a wall isn’t all that surprising as they’re transitioning not only from college ball to professional ball, but they’re also playing in a 16 game season compared to a 12 game season in the college ranks. So a decreased in production and injuries are certainly expected.
My biggest knock on Jones is his ability to be a factor in the ground-game. Jones certainly has great potential to be a 10 sack per-year pass-rusher, but he needs to improve on his ability to read and stop the run.
Do I believe that Jones will be able to make that improvement? Well, there’s no question that he’s athletic enough to do so.
All in all, I like to think that Jones did meet expectations in his debut season with the Patriots. Jones certainly proved early on that he can be an impact player on defense and as the ability to put consistent pressure on the defense, but he needs to build on his endurance to last a 16 game season.
Moving forward into 2013 and for many seasons to come, Bill Belichick and the Patriots very well could have found that edge-passer that they have been searching for since the later years of their dynasty.
2012 Stats: 14 games played, 45 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles and five pass deflections
Letter Grade: B